Saturday, March 28, 2015

Vantage Point

by Tim Howard

This coming week is very significant for the whole world and Christians in particular.  Church families everywhere will remember the crucifixion of Christ and on Sunday, April 5 they will celebrate His resurrection.  All the activities will seek to recall the event that happened approximately two thousand years ago.  Some may describe the crucifixion of Christ as the best of times and the worst of times while others may say it was the turning point in human history.  One thing is certain, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has caused centuries of controversy and a multitude of change.

The Life of Christ was full of teachings, miracles, words of encouragement and personal ministry, but His death was the ultimate statement of God’s love. The Bible tells us in John 3:16 that God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son to die on a cross for our sins.  Anyone who believes in Him will not only experience forgiveness from his or her sin but will receive an eternal inheritance as well.  God is not a respecter of persons and does not show favoritism.  He loves all mankind and has a desire to relate to each and every individual.  No one is exempt from His touch unless they reject Him.

Jesus didn’t enjoy death and dying is not something people enjoy thinking or talking about.  When death comes knocking on a person’s door they are more apt to resist it with tremendous vigor than openly embrace it with a willing acceptance.  Even the Apostle Peter vehemently refused to accept the pending death of Christ when in Caesarea Philippi.  Jesus told His disciples that He would soon be crucified but Peter actually took Jesus aside and rebuked Him.  He emphatically declared: “this will NEVER happen to you!”

From the response of Jesus to Peter’s reaction we discover that Peter didn’t fully understand the significance of Christ’s death and only viewed things from a human point of view rather than God’s view.  Peter focused on the pain, sorrow, hurt, misery and injustice, but when you see Christ’s death from God’s vantage point it takes on a totally different look.

God sees His Son’s death and resurrection as the beginning of something new and not the end of something old. It marks the end of religious duty and opens the door for authentic relationship with God.  His death was not optional but mandatory.  Death doesn’t have to be the last step on earth but can be the first step into eternity with God if you put your faith in His Son.  There is a future hope beyond this earthly life and the resurrection of Jesus is God’s gracious evidence to all of us.  It assures us that God turned the sting of death around and what once produced fear is now conquered by faith.

As you celebrate the Easter season, God wants to give you His perspective and help you see from His vantage point.  Those who are receptive will see more than a man dying on a cross and a story about His resurrection.

They will see a Savior who lived among us, died for us and walks with us to help us live life to it’s fullest. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015


by Andrew Cromwell

One of the more popular TV series during the 80s and 90s was Star Trek: The Next Generation. Apart from the great chemistry among the characters and the adventures the crew experienced as they “boldly went where no man had gone before”, there is an image that lives in my mind whenever I think about the series.

In my mind’s eye I see Captain Jean-Luc Picard standing on the bridge of his ship about to utter the single word that would launch both the ship and the episode into action. As he lifted his right hand and in a single motion flicked his wrist forward, pointing in the direction the ship was to go, he would speak the word, “Engage.”

And with that single word, the crew would hurtle forward towards their newest adventure. If you’re not familiar with this scene, a quick trip to youtube with a search for the terms “Picard” and “engage” will cement this reality forever in your mind.

If you were to look up the word “engage” in the dictionary, you would find that one of its definitions is “to participate or to become involved in.” It is an action word that implies movement towards something. When one is engaged, it is clear they have taken ownership of their behavior and are intentionally entering in.

When it comes to relationships, we must engage. Just like Captain Picard and his crew, we too must move forward into the lives of others. Far too often we sit back and passively wait for others to engage with us. But in our relationships, especially the most important relationships in our lives, we cannot afford to wait and see.

Sometimes we fail to engage because we are uncertain or uncomfortable. Perhaps you are uncertain of exactly what to do. Your teenager is acting like teenagers do, and you are uncertain exactly how best to connect. It feels like they are moving away relationally, but how do you begin? Perhaps you are uncomfortable. You and your spouse just haven’t been connecting and you don’t know how to bridge the gap. You want to talk but it is so uncomfortable to start the conversation that you just tend to wait.

At our best, when we are motivated by real love, we refuse to allow our uncertainty and discomfort to determine our level of engagement. For any relationship to continue to grow, it requires engagement! It requires conversation, time, attention, thought, dedication and effort.

My dad once told me about a guy he met during boot camp. This guy wasn’t the best looking guy in the world, as a matter of fact, he had a severe case of acne. He also wasn’t the smoothest or coolest guy around. And yet, whenever the guys on base had leave, this guy always had a date. Always. He had more dates than anyone else. Why? He talked to more girls and asked more times than anyone else. When everyone else was screwing up their courage to talk to that one girl, he had already talked to five. He didn’t allow himself to be discouraged just because someone turned him down, he kept engaging.

We need to take a page from that playbook! When relationships get difficult and distant, instead of walking away with our head hanging low and deciding to nurse our wounds, lets press in. When that teenager is moving away, go ahead and step into their world. And if the first attempt doesn’t work, try something different! When you and your spouse need to have that difficult conversation and you just don’t know how to start, stop waiting for them and dive in!

Saturday, March 14, 2015


by Tim Howard

Have you ever noticed how time seems to stand still on certain occasions and then appears to move quickly on others? 

When I’m in a hurry to get to a certain destination and I’m running late – time flies by. People in my path seem to be moving slowly, which exasperates me even more because time is moving so quickly and they seem to be inching ahead at a snails pace. 

When I’m in a Doctor’s office, however, waiting for he or she to call me into the room – 50 minutes past my scheduled appointment – time moves very slowly. I look at my watch every 5 minutes thinking 15 minutes have passed – but it hasn’t.

When you turn 15 years old and look forward to obtaining your drivers license at 16 – the next 365 days seems like a thousand but when you turn 65 and look back on life you wonder – where did time go. It seemed like yesterday.

Of course time is consistent and every day has 24 hours, but regardless of the facts – time has varying effects on all of us.

Solomon said these words about time:

Eccl. 3:1  “There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
Eccl. 3:2  A time for birth and another for death, A time to plant and another to reap, 
Eccl. 3:3  A time to kill and another to heal, A time to destroy and another to construct, 
Eccl. 3:4  A time to cry and another to laugh, A right time to lament and another to cheer, 
Eccl. 3:5  A time to make love and another to abstain, A time to embrace and another to part, 
Eccl. 3:6  A time to search and another to count your losses, A time to hold on and another to let go, 
Eccl. 3:7  A time to rip out and another to mend, A time to shut up and another to speak up, 
Eccl. 3:8  A time to love and another to hate, A time to wage war and another to make peace.

We have all been allotted a certain amount of time on this planet.  The real issue is not how slowly or how quickly it moves but what a person does with the time he or she has been given. 

According to Business Insider: “Most human beings get about 75 years of existence. That's about 3,900 weeks or 27,000 days or 648,000 hours. We spend about a third of those hours sleeping – a number that hasn't changed much over the centuries.

What has changed is what we do with the remaining time… thanks to the irrepressible inventiveness and ingenuity of humankind, we have engineered a profound shift in what we do with our waking hours… There are 168 hours in a week – 56 go to sleeping, which leaves 112 for everything else. Thanks to remarkable progress… the average work week in most countries has dropped by about 30 hours… and has freed up a lot of extra time. So what do we do with all the extra hours? We spend them watching television” According to recent figures, the average human spends about 4 hours a day, or 28 hours a week, watching television.”

Jesus used His time for the benefit of others. He decided to serve rather than be served. He lived with a specific purpose in mind and never wavered. Even though His earthly presence only lasted a little over 3 decades, the effects of His life are still being felt.  

How are you using your time?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Love Commits

by Andrew Cromwell

What does it mean to commit to something? All of us have committed to get back in the gym, to start eating right, or stop wasting so much time on Facebook. More often than not, we have failed to follow through. Our lives are strewn with the wreckage of half-finished projects; plans that never made it past the dream stage, and relationships that always seem to fall just short of being great.

Commitment isn’t easy. Aligning our desires with our will-power and mixing them together in a way that results in personal transformation is just tough. Even more when it comes to the commitment that is required for our relationships to move to the next level. It is one thing to commit to get into the gym, and entirely another to commit to working through the junk that we all have in our closest relationships.

Loving people who are close to you — truly loving them — requires a level of commitment that we are uncomfortable with. It is easy to say we love someone. People say that all the time. We tell it to our kids when we are getting ready to leave our spouse. We say things like, “I love your mom/dad, but we just can’t live together.” Or we say it when we are talking about our relatives, “I love them, but I just can’t stand to be in the same room with them!"

Well, if that’s the case, then we have to ask ourselves, what does love really mean? The last time I checked, love was more than a feeling of liking the person (although that is part of it), it also involved a commitment to the person. For love really to be love, it means that we must be willing to be committed to the person. We must be committed to loving them through their limitations and weaknesses. We must be committed to the person whether or not we like them in the moment and whether or not they make us feel good.

This is where the rubber meets the road. Dear reader, you might be thinking that this kind of love is ideal and impossible. You live in the real world, and this kind of love is good only for saints and children’s stories. But I’d like to suggest that we not write off this kind of love so quickly. I believe that it is only when we love people through the difficult times that we really begin to understand what love means. Love that only loves when the other person makes us feel good or does what we want is nothing more than self-love. This kind of love says, “I love me so much that I'll love you only when you make me happy."

Regrettably, this is often the kind of love that characterizes marriages today. We say nice things to our spouse during the wedding ceremony, but we only mean them as long as we stay happy in the relationship. The moment we “fall out of love”, which is just code for, “you don’t make me happy anymore” or “I’m bored and selfish”, and then we make plans to move on to the next relationship.

Maybe it’s time for a revolution of commitment in our relationships. Whether it’s your marriage, your relatives or your closest friends, maybe we need to raise our understanding of what love means. So the next time you find yourself wanting to run away because the going gets tough, you stick in and fight for that which is important—your relationships. You and I have to be willing to fight for what matters. Maybe it’s true that the best lovers are the best fighters.

50 Shades of Black and White

by Tim Howard

I was born in the era of Black and White T.V. Even though color televisions were available in the early 1950’s it wasn’t until the mid 1960’s that they were affordable for the average family.

I was also brought up with a black and white belief system. Certain things were right and certain things were wrong. Leaders, Pastors, Parents, Teachers and others who held a prominent role determined the rights and wrongs. It was cut and dry. ONE SIZE FIT ALL… We all fit into the same box. 

My mother use to say: “’Others’ can do certain things but we can’t.” The underlying judgment of course was that they were wrong and we were right.  

Since my early years I’ve learned that right and wrong issues are not simplistic. It is not as simple as making a list of do’s and don’ts. I have discovered many factors. What is wrong ‘now’ may not be wrong ‘later.’ Often, there is a timing issue that determines right and wrong. It may be wrong to communicate certain things to a child at 6 years of age but right to communicate at a later time. It is wrong to drive an automobile at 15 yrs of age but right to drive at 16 if you have a license.

Right and Wrong has something to do with quantity as well. In our culture it is considered wrong to drink alcohol if you are under 18 but considered acceptable to drink if you are over 21 – at least if you don’t drink too much and then attempt to drive. This makes it wrong even if you are much older. 

All that to say: When you are talking about Right and Wrong – it’s a bit more complex – especially when you add 50 shades of grey.

To discover any shade of any color, you must first know the primary colors. In Bible terminology: You can’t determine what is right and wrong in the grey areas until you know and embrace the primary truths about God. When you know the black and white about God – You have a better chance of discerning the grey. 

Here are 3 of 7 primary truths about God as seen in the Bible.

 1.    God does not promote bondage. He promotes freedom. There’s nothing grey about that? Not a freedom that allows a person to do what they want but a freedom to do what is best for all. A message for all who live in America to fully embrace. Gal 5:1

2.    God does not ‘take advantage’ of weak, weary, young, vulnerable people. He ‘gives them an advantage’. There’s nothing grey about that! While the evil side exploits people for their own personal gratification – God elevates people to a place of value, honor and significance – deserving respect. Ps 9:9

3.    God is not one who seduces, deceives or tempts people into doing something inherently wrong. There’s nothing grey about that! James 1:13

There might be 50 shades of grey but knowing the primary truths about God can help you discover the truth about grey areas. Are they good or bad? Are they profitable or unprofitable? Do they lead to wisdom or foolishness? Do they help or hurt? Knowing the primary truths about God will help you know what things are best for you to watch, read, listen to or what activities to do. At least they’ve helped me. I hope they help you.